If you missed the first article in this series, click here to brush up on the definition and importance of authenticity – and learn the most fundamental way to encourage it in your child - then come back and read up on these helpful tips!
- We all know what ‘feels right’ to us even if we
aren’t entirely sure how we have this knowledge. When we’re trying to live
authentically, it is key that we are able to tune in to these feelings to help
us make decisions that are in harmony with our values and beliefs. Your kids
also have a sense about these things but they may not always have the language
with which to describe it. No matter their age, naming this instinct will help
you have conversations around this topic. Choose a suitable ‘name’ that works
for you and your family. Here are some examples: gut feeling, smart-part, heart
feeling, inner compass, the voice inside, the whisper, happy feeling, inner
wisdom, guiding voice, or God-part. Getting your child’s input when selecting a
name can be fun and meaningful, too! You can start the process by saying, “You
know, there’s this part of you that knows what feels right to do and what feels
wrong to do. Do you ever have feelings like that? What do you think you would
call that?” If your child seems unaware of this instinct, try to think of times
when your child has decided something purely on what felt right to them. It can
be as simple as pointing out their unique sense of style.
- Sit down with your child and talk about all the
things they love to do or feel strongly about. You can do this through conversation and/or art, depending on your child’s
interests, developmental stage – and, honestly, what materials you have on
hand! Try to keep the activity light-hearted, but
also point out that the purpose of it is to practice checking in with their ‘real
self’ or ‘who they are inside’ or whatever term feels appropriate to you here
as a substitution for authentic self. Be sure to mention how favoured pastimes or passions make them
unique, and what a great thing that is. Get them used to words like ‘unique,
special, quirks, talents, gifts’ and anything else you want to use to describe
what sets them apart.
- Make up a motto that highlights the importance
of their unique self. One that I loved growing up, and still do, is “I am ME,
and I am the best ME there is!” If your child is too young to fully absorb the
words, accompany the phrase with a drawing or photo that represents them
feeling great about themselves. Don’t get too hung up over it, though. It can
be as simple as a piece of paper with the words I Am Perfect and a great big
smiley face. When you’re coming up with your motto, talk about
times when it would be helpful to remember it: when comparing yourself to others, when
a friend leaves you to play with someone else, or when the other kids at a
party are breaking rules. Put the motto up somewhere visible to your child on a
- Expose your child to the things he or she is
interested in. I know – they’re kids, they like everything! Without going
overboard and signing them up for lessons in every single thing they think is
fun, ask them to pick their top 3 (or whatever number works for your family)
and then look for ways to foster their interest. Many times, you can engage in
these interests together – and for free, even. For example, if your child loves
Nature, you can try to discover a new park in your city once a month. If your child
is interested in music but you want to wait awhile before investing in
expensive lessons, take them to high school musical productions (band concerts,
plays) so they are making some kind of connection with their passion. And here’s
the not-so-easy part: if your child changes his or her mind and is suddenly
disinterested in something, don’t get upset. While it might seem like they’re
being fickle, they’re really just being little scientists– discovering what
they like and don’t like. You can have rules around following through on
something (like if you paid for 8 lessons and they want to quit after 4, they
can learn to see something through to the finish if that’s what you want to
teach them). Again, part of learning to be authentic is following your heart -
just as adults make career changes when things don’t ‘feel right’ anymore.
So, consider it part of the training!
- Talk about YOU! Be open about your passions and
hobbies and tell your child how you feel when you get to do the things that
make you happy. Be a role model around listening to your heart and following
it. Let them see you head out to a poetry reading once in a while and then tell
them why you enjoyed it. The more you talk about how it feels to honour your
authentic self, the more language and understanding they will have for this
concept. It will make it easier for them to tune in to their own authentic
self. Plus, seeing their parents happy and achieving some balance in their
lives will set the stage for when they become parents themselves.
These 5 tips are flexible to accommodate your unique child,
so have fun and most of all, remember, this concept of being authentic is best
learned with you as a partner.
Read more about the author
"I am the best ME there is!"
Now, that is the best motto I have ever heard -- because it doesn't try to force you into being or beating someone else. And in fact, nobody can be you better than you can.
In my view, this beats the cross-generational training in setting your emotions aside to make a decision.
There is some value in being able to analyze a problem intellectually. But feelings do and should have an important role in all decision-making.
Children are very empathetic and identify with every hurt puppy or fallen bird. Infusing that empathy with good analysis in decision making can really benefit boys and girls. Do you think that a boy with empathy would grow up into a man that beats his wife? I seriously doubt it. But failing to beat her wouldn't be out of fear of getting caught. It would be out of authenticity -- out of knowing who he is as a person and being secure with it.